The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh has arrested a Sanathan Sanstha member who was also the personal assistant of a Congress MLC from Madikeri in connection with the crime. His arrest makes it the 10th in the Gauri Lankesh murder case.
Rajesh Bangera was arrested by the SIT sleuths on July 23. On Tuesday, the SIT produced Rajesh Bangera in the ACMM court in Bengaluru. He has since been remanded to 13-day judicial custody.
Bangera was appointed as Kodagu MLC Veena Achaiahâ€™s PA in 2016 and worked in the Zilla Parishad office in Old Fort Madikeri. Sources say that he was also employed as an assistant in the Department of Public Instruction and that he also served as an assistant to the Zilla Parishad president. According to a source close to MLC Veena, the police in Madikeri did not know about Bangeraâ€™s arrest and that the MLC was also clueless about his activities.
â€śWe did not inform anyone in the ZP office. Only a select few members of the investigation team knew of Bangeraâ€™s arrest. He was not arrested from his work place,â€ť a source in the SIT said.
According to Deccan Herald, Bangera went to work regularly and his colleagues did not suspect him of any wrongdoing.
A native of Palooru in Bettageri gram panchayat in Madikeri, Bangera also owns a coffee plantation. According to villagers, his family had migrated to Palooru from Dakshina Kannada district several years ago.
SIT sources, however, said that Bangera owned a registered gun and was an expert shooter. The SIT suspects that Bangera was the man hired by Amol Kale, who was instrumental in planning the murder, to train shooters from Karnataka to carry out executions of persons mentioned in Kaleâ€™s hit-list. Bangera used to attend the Sanstha's meetings many years ago and was one of the first to be trained in arms.
â€śThe suspicion is that Bangera taught Parashuram Waghmore how to shoot,â€ť said the source.
The SIT has been searching for Amol Kaleâ€™s handler, who they believe gave the orders and supervised the murder of Gauri Lankesh. Police suspect that Bangera and Amol Kale were close associates and the two were instrumental in planning the murder. The police claim they have found Kaleâ€™s connection with Bangera after they found several contact numberâ€™s in Kaleâ€™s diary entries.
On Monday, the SIT produced before the court Amit Baddi, suspected to have provided the logistics, and Ganesh Miskin, a 27-year-old man from Hubbali suspected to have been the biker who brought Parashuram Waghmore, the alleged shooter, to Gauri's residence. Ganesh and Amit have been remanded to police custody.
Earlier, the SIT had arrested Amit Degwekar from Goa, Sujeet Kumar from Shivamogga, Manohar Edave from Vijayapura, KT Naveen Kumar from Maddur and Mohan Nayak from Dakshina Kannada.
Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluruâ€™s Rajarajeshwari Nagar on the night of September 5, 2017. She had sustained three bullet wounds which proved fatal.
In February, the SIT arrested KT Naveen Kumar. It was only after his arrest that an entire gang of suspects were nabbed. The SIT also uncovered the gangâ€™s connection to an underground pro-Hindutva fringe group and that the gang had also conspired to kill several rationalists and progressive thinkers. The SIT had found, in Amol Kaleâ€™s diary a list of 36 names, whom the gang had planned to kill.